Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Keys to the Game

The Caps need to rake the Leafs like they were hot coals. No cutesy stuff, just solid hockey.

#1 : Crash the net. I'm not sure why the Capitals -- always known for a hard-nosed, gritty style -- have gotten away from this, which seemed to be a ubiquitous move for every Caps team, from the Murray brothers through Hanlon. However, a lack of crease presence explains the drought for all but the top line players. A striking example of this problem occurred last week, against the Lightning, when the line of Brooks Laich, Michael Nylander and Tomas Fleischmann all managed to end up on the goaltender's right side. Laich came up with the puck, and was obviously ready to chuck it towards someone in the crease, only to have a brief look of confusion as he realized that neither of his teammates was anywhere near the crease, nor were they on their way there. Be in the crease. Be that gnat in the goaltender's face. Be that guy who causes their defenseman to accidently kick the puck into his own net.

#2 : Rebound coverage. Despite some ugly losses in the last week, Theodore has looked a bit more solid than he did just before the Predators game. But, his primary issue is still glaring -- he does not cover the rebounds. Looking at the goals against him from last Saturday, it was his inability to control the rebounds that spelled doom in the third period. If he can't get the rebound, then a more solid defenseman has to be nearby to clear the puck, someone who reacts faster than Jeff Schultz, and who can handle the puck better than John Erskine or Milan Jurcina.

The Capitals have enough offensive power that stopping soft goals against alone will likely prove enough to take the Leafs down. Shaking Gerber up in the crease can only help. Come out flying, and don't look back!

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